HC Deb 29 June 1938 vol 337 cc2079-85

11.48 p.m.

Mr. Liddall

I beg to move, in page 55, line 13, at the end, to insert: (4) Where the remuneration paid by an employer to a worker includes remuneration in respect of other work as well as in respect of bacon production work, the amount of the remuneration which is attributable to the bacon production work shall, if not apparent from the terms of the contract between the employer and the worker, be deemed to be an amount bearing the same proportion to the total remuneration as the time spent on bacon production work during the period in respect of which the total remuneration is payable bears to the whole of the time in respect of which that remuneration is payable. The object of this proposed new Subsection is to provide that an employer shall not be required to pay wages which are considered fair in relation to work in connection with the production of bacon except for that portion of the time during which the employe is engaged in that particular class of work. Although in large bacon factories employes may be regarded as being engaged for the whole of their time on processes incidental to the production of bacon, that is not the position in the case of the smaller curers. Anyone producing more than 5 cwt. of bacon in a week is going to be required to take out a producer's licence, and must register under the Bacon Marketing Scheme, coming, therefore, within the provisions of this Clause; but a trader who only produces between 5 cwt. and 15 cwt. of bacon in a week does not employ one man solely for the purpose of producing that bacon. It should be noted that the term "production of bacon" covers the slaughtering of pigs where the bacon is made from a pig slaughtered by or on behalf of the person to whom the producer's licence is issued. A trader producing seven cwt. of bacon in a week would not utilise the services of the man for the whole week in doing nothing but slaughtering the seven pigs and in connection with the various processes incidental to the manufacture of bacon. Such a man would be employed in other work; he might be driving a motor van or be engaged in making sausages or pork pies, processes which by no stretch of imagination can be described as in connection with the production of bacon.

I submit that there is precedent for this Amendment in the Road Haulage Wages Bill, where a similar difficulty had arisen, namely, that a number of persons are employed in driving commercial goods vehicles for part of the day but are engaged in other work for the remainder of the day. I submit that this is a reasonable Amendment, in view of what was accepted on the Road Haulage Wages Bill. I have moved two previous Amendments this evening, and if this one is accepted it will pay for the effort I have made.

11.52 p.m.

Mr. Haslam

I beg to second the Amendment.

The purpose of it is not that these people shall reduce wages. It seems to be an equitable Amendment which will be particularly appreciated by the small men.

11.53 p.m.

Mr. T. Williams

Apparently the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Liddall) represents the small employer here and is asking this House at this moment and at this late hour to pass an Amendment in order to get round the Fair Wages Clause. From the observations which he made that he wants to prevent employers from paying wages—[Interruption.]

Mr. Liddall

On a point of Order. The hon. Member has referred to my presence in this House as typifying the man who does not want to see fair wages paid; I submit that that is a gross libel and should be withdrawn.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

That is not a point of Order.

Mr. T. Williams

A Fair Wages Clause is embodied in the Bill for all those engaged in the production of pigs, but the hon. Member wants to divide the time that is supposed to be occupied by the bacon producer in any other subsidiary occupation so that some part of his wage shall be paid on the basis of the Fair Wages Clause and the other part, apparently, at a lower rate. Clearly that is the purpose of the Amendment. The hon. Member asks the House to circumscribe the Fair Wages Clause, so that then employès should have less in wages than the Fair Wages Clause would give them. Whatever excuses the hon. Member may make he cannot get away from the terms of his Amendment; and if the Amendment is not intended to reduce the wages that might be received by the employès in a bacon factory, what is the object of the Amendment? It may be that a very bad precedent has been adopted in this House in some transport Measure, but there can be no justification for the hon. Member to suggest, when a Measure is introduced to develop one of our major industries, when a financial guarantee is proposed for producers of pigs and bacon and we are to provide opportunities for restricting imports so that the prices may be maintained, that employès in the industries may have something less than the wages which would be paid under the Fair Wages Clause. The Lincoln workers, at all events, will know exactly what the hon. Member stands for now. I hope the Minister will not accept the Amendment.

11.56 p.m.

Mr. Ramsbotham

As my hon Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. Liddall) has pointed out, this Amendment is lifted bodily from the Road Haulage Wages Bill, except for certain verbal alterations. But the Road Haulage Wages Bill set up trade hoards and made other necessary arrangements. In my judgment, and, I think, in the judgment of the House, it would be futile to transfer a Sub-section from the Road Haulage Wages Bill to this Bill and expect it to work, without providing all the machinery of the Road Haulage Wages Bill. I have no doubt that if the Amendment were accepted it would result in confusion. There is no provision in the Bill to secure accurate records of the time worked. I feel that my hon. Friend, when he considers it, will have no doubt at all that this Amendment would go a long way towards destroying the operation of the Fair Wages Clause so far as this Bill is concerned.

11.58 p.m.

Mr. H. G. Williams

I am afraid the Minister and the hon. Member opposite have not understood the principle of this Amendment. The hon. Member opposite, in rather an ungenerous speech, merely went on the assumption that the sole object was to cut wages. But let us take the case of a man employed by a butcher who makes a quantity of bacon. The man serves behind the counter part of the day, cuts up part of the day, and it may be drives a vehicle part of the day. When engaged as a salesman he may be on a basis of wages plus commission. That form of remuneration may, in fact, give him a higher rate of pay than he would get under this Bill, but nevertheless, tested by this principle, his wages may not comply with the Fair Wages Clause.

Mr. T. Williams

Does the hon. Member maintain that if any employed person who spends part of his time in the production of bacon and another part of his time in a butcher's shop or a butcher's van is paid more than the Fair Wages Clause would give him, that would not continue without the inclusion of this Amendment?

Mr. H. G. Williams

Let us take the case of a man paid a moderate standing wage and commission. The commission would vary from week to week and according to seasonal demands. Surely, you have to consider the whole terms of his employment; and to apply to him, in respect of what may be only one quarter of his hours of employment, regulations which are intended to apply to people working continuously in a factory on the same process, is manifestly absurd. The fact that the Minister of Pensions says that he wants many more words does not indicate that his Department have given proper consideration to the matter, and the fact that the Amendment is incomplete is not a reflection upon the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Liddall), but rather a reflection upon the Department in that they have not taken much trouble to put the Bill in a satisfactory form. If it had not been that the Road Haulage Rates Bill had been amended to some extent as a result of my suggestions, there would have been the anomaly that one of the people talked about would have had his contract rate of pay for some of his work, the board rate for another job, and wages fixed by the Bill for another part of his time. He would be working under three conditions of wage rates, which would be a manifest absurdity and would irritate everybody. It would be better to attempt to arrive at a fair solution in the interests of these people. This Bill contemplates the position of the regular full-time factory worker, and I beg of the Minister to give rather more careful consideration to this sensible Amendment.

12.2 a.m.

Mr. Kelly

After listening to the amazing speech of the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams), I am still of the opinion that, despite his association with employers' associations, during all the years that I have known him, he has never had to deal with wages.

Mr. H. G. Williams

I have never been associated with any employers' association in my life.

Mr. Kelly

I have not the time to deal with that matter to-night, but I will tell the hon. Member afterwards the places where he has worked. It is a good job that he has never had to deal with wages. That is a subject about which, in addressing this House, he has shown that he knows so little. I am sorry to have to say that to him, but it is clear from his speech. He has asked the House to think of the Fair Wages Clause and of the people, who, employed doing something else during part of their time, would be receiving a higher rate of pay, commission and all the rest of it, and has tried to make the House believe that under the Fair Wages Clause you are compelled to bring wages down. There is no Fair Wages Clause operated by the Government, a local authority or by any association which compels an employer to bring down wages to any level. The employer complies with the Fair Wages Clause provided he does not pay lower wages than the particular figure mentioned. If the employers—butchers and others—to whom the hon. Member refers desire to continue paying wages at a higher level, they will be complying with the Fair Wages Clause. If these people are paying the higher rate, there is no need for the Amendment, and I hope that the House will reject it.

12.4 a.m.

Mr. Alexander

I do not want this Amendment to be disposed of without saying a word or two on the matter. I am very glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly) has spoken in the way he has done. He has had very great trade union experience in this matter and knows what he is talking about. I also have had some experience of this kind of distributive trades where men are at times employed upon actual productive operations. These things arise from day to day not only in connection with trade unions, but also in the services administered in connection with trade board negotiations. There is not the slightest ground for an Amendment of this nature for the purpose of getting round the Fair Wages Clause.

If the traders for whom the hon. Member for Lincoln speaks and who have interests to be served—and rightly to be considered, I do not deny—would bend their efforts to seeing that the workers in the trade were members of the trade union and had a free and open platform for negotiation, and that a definition were arranged with the trade union as to the percentage of the particular occupations that qualified for the higher wages, they would not only he all right for the Fair Wages Clause but would be quite immune from danger from any trade union. That is the line that ought to be taken by the people for whom the hon. Member speaks; it is already taken by the great body of employers in this industry—a fact which has obviously been brought to the notice of the Minister, making it imperative to include a Fair Wages Clause in the Bill.

It is only playing with words for the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams) to say that this Amendment might secure higher wages for some of the people in the industry; I beg to assure him that that is not so in this industry. Those who are acquainted with the bacon and butchering trades know the qualifications of the man who is both an experienced slaughterman and bacon curer and at the same time has to be a sufficiently competent assistant to serve and to take cash, and also at times to deliver. There is no doubt what ought to be the rate of wages paid; it is the highest rate. I compliment the Minister upon standing firm, while the hon. Member for Lincoln is supporting a very unworthy object.

Amendment negatived.